Will the AFL Always Be the VFL?

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Will the AFL Always Be the VFL?

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Why we like to think it is Australia's game, will the AFL always be the VFL?

Why we like to think it is Australia’s game, but will the AFL always be the VFL?

I love footy, perhaps I’m even slightly addicted given the amount of fantasy leagues I am in each season, however, part of me feels that as I get older the more I realise that perhaps everything isn’t quite as it seems in the AFL.

Can’t Travel

Source: westernbulldogs.com.au
Source: westernbulldogs.com.au

A lot has been made about the fact that the West Coast Eagles struggled away from Perth this season, with commentators from Victoria the first to slam their inability to travel and play away from home. But have you ever thought about how the Melbourne team’s play away from Melbourne on the odd occasion they have to?

Western Bulldogs had a tough start to the season having to play 7 games in a row at Etihad Stadium before they had to travel to the MCG, their first away game wasn’t until round 9 when they travelled to Spotless Stadium, Sydney (which they lost). How many times have Collingwood travelled outside of Melbourne in 23 rounds… 5, despite 8 teams being from outside of Melbourne.

It is also worth noting that most teams in the league only have to travel once per season to Perth, only Essendon had to travel twice this year – no doubt because they are in the AFL’s bad books. Do the AFL consider it to be too much strain on teams to travel twice in a season to Perth?

There is also an interesting side note from Melbourne based teams travelling west. Dating back to the start of the 2014 season not only have Melbourne teams only won 7 times for  a 22% win percentage in Perth, but they have then gone on to lose their next game back in Melbourne 60% of the time after having travelled to Perth. Perhaps limiting the number of times a team has to travel to Perth in a season helps keep the Melbourne based clubs in the finals – we wouldn’t want them to lose 4 games because they had to travel to Perth twice in a season. Another interesting fact about the Perth travel effect is that the AFL might be aware of this. In 2016 teams returning from Perth games played teams that finished in bottom 8, 8 times and only played teams that finished in the top 8, 2 times.

So who is it that actually struggles with travel? Melbourne commentators might need to pump the brakes on labeling interstate teams as poor away sides when their clubs have the advantage to stay at home for weeks on end. Unless more interstate clubs are established the AFL will always be the VFL.

Finals Series

Perth-Stadium-1
Source: perthstadium.com.au

This is just how much easier Melbourne teams have it when it comes to the finals. Even if a Melbourne based team finished 8th, they could quite easily play all their games in Melbourne and not have to travel (obviously as long as they are versing a Melbourne based side.)

Also, let’s not forget that interstate clubs are at the mercy of the AFL when having to travel to Melbourne in finals too. Remember the 2013 Qualifying Final – Geelong v Fremantle which was played at Simonds Stadium with a capacity crowd of 32,000… as opposed to Etihad (52,000+ capacity) or the MCG (90,000+ capacity.) Was the AFL more interested in ticket sales or helping Geelong get through the final’s.

As it turns out though Fremantle won the game and then went on to make the Grand Final.

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But why should the AFL Grand Final be played in Melbourne each year?

With Adelaide’s new stadium, Perth Stadium to be completed for the 2018 season and world class stadiums in Sydney and the Gabba is more than serviceable there doesn’t seem to be much logic in the games biggest day being played in Melbourne each year. Sure the MCG holds the most people out of all the stadiums (though the AFL doesn’t seem to be concerned about optimising ticket sales according to the Geelong v Fremantle finals) and Melbourne are considered Australia’s sporting city, but if the AFL was truly dedicated to growing the AFL in all markets, why not play the games biggest day in a different state each year.

Imagine if the AFL held the grand final in Sydney – I’m sure that would generate a lot of buzz and excitement in a market that is dominated by NRL. Perhaps this would also be a fairer way to build the g ame in the NRL markets than giving these teams additional payroll and academies so they can field a winning side each year.

The touring grand final idea isn’t as crazy as it sounds, after all, one of the world’s biggest sporting events, the Super Bowl moves to a different city each year. The advantage? Perhaps a more even contest? As both teams might not have a have home field advantage in a given year.

Tourism in the city holding the event would go into overdrive as fans from each team all across Australia descend on the host city. The city would be able to show off itself off to the rest of Australia and in a time where the local economy isn’t so strong, shouldn’t we be encouraging people to stay and travel within Australia? Not to mention the AFL Grand Final draws in audiences from all over the world, so it would also be a great opportunity for the host city to be seen by the international market.

While these ideas might sound great to some – unfortunately we will have to wait until 2037 (at a minimum) for the Grand Final to potentially move away from the MCG, due to the contract between the AFL MCC-MCG Trust. Will there be more or less teams in the AFL by then?

The AFL Footy Show

afl-footy-showThere are 8 games per season where each state has their own derby/showdown, which means that there are 8 opportunities for the AFL’s biggest TV show to travel to another state. It just seems crazy that the Footy Show doesn’t move around the country as often as it could and should.

Just as the AFL Grand Final would generate excitement in the host city, so would the Footy Show each time it rolled into a different city. Surely in today’s world, this isn’t a big ask of Channel 9 and the AFL to implement more regular interstate AFL Footy Show’s – helping to promote each states teams/players on a more level playing field.

Why should Melbourne get to have all the fun of the Footy Show?

So what are your thoughts? Do you think the AFL still has a long way to go to shrug the VFL mentality or are the AFL doing a great job?